Family reaction to drownings 'dignified'

An Aboriginal flag is draped and floral tributes near the scene where two Aboriginal boys drowned.
An Aboriginal flag is draped and floral tributes near the scene where two Aboriginal boys drowned.

The families of two boys, who drowned in Perth's Swan River after diving in to evade police, have reacted with dignity and helped calm potential racial tensions, West Australian Aboriginal Affairs Minister Ben Wyatt says.

Trisjack Simpson, 17, and Chris Drage, 16, were among five boys police chased on foot following reports of teenagers jumping fences after a house had been ransacked in Maylands on Monday afternoon.

Four of them jumped into the water and two were grabbed by officers, but Trisjack and Chris were seen struggling in the middle of the river and did not resurface.

Mr Wyatt, who is indigenous, did not know the boys but does know members of their extended families.

He said there would always be reflections on whether it was "another typical death of Aboriginal people at the hands of a justice system", but he praised the families for their calming reaction to the tragedy.

"No teenager, Aboriginal or not, should have their lives lost in something that started as antisocial behaviour, I suspect," he told 6PR radio on Friday.

"This, for me, has been personally very, very devastating. These are prominent families that I've connected to.

"It is a terrible, terrible tragedy that I think has been calmed to a certain extent by the reaction of the families.

"The family reaction has been incredibly dignified in the face of public trauma and also fairly nasty (comments) in some areas of public conversation."

Earlier this week, Mr Wyatt told AAP the tragedy highlighted larger social issues, and the state government would work with indigenous leaders and police to improve relationships.

Christopher Drage, the father of Chris, has told reporters he does not blame the officers, saying everyone makes silly mistakes as children.

Trisjack's grandfather James Spratt provided similar comments, saying the boys made an error that cost them their lives.

A memorial will be held for Chris and Trisjack at the site on Saturday.

Australian Associated Press